Press "Enter" to skip to content

Howie “Report Card” on GOP Voting Records Mostly Useless

South Dakota's right wing apparently believes the way to school the mainstream Republican Party is to put out lots of report cards. Some nameless characters issued the John Birchy "South Dakota Freedom Index" in September. The still anonymous issued its 20-vote report card in November.

Now potential GOP spoiler Gordon Howie puts his fake blogroll's name to the "Republican Legislator Voting Score Card." On the good side, Howie at least makes clear this latest report card is a product of his organization.

On the bad side, Howie commissions the smallest sampling of votes of these three score cards. sampled 20 bills and resolutions from the 2011 Legislative session. The Birchers checked ten pieces of legislation. Howie and a couple guys at IHOP cherry-pick just nine bills from the 2011 session and claim their rigged sample "confirms" that "the Republican Party has been infiltrated with liberal/moderate candidates who belong in the Democratic caucus."

Weakening the usefulness of this score card is Howie's inclusion of a number of votes that don't help us distinguish elephants from RINOs:

  • SB 89, clarifying municipal power to assess street maintenance fees, passed unanimously.
  • HB 1133, which excuses kids from school the moment their folks file a home school application, prior to board approval, drew only four nay votes, all from Democrats.
  • SB 65, a bill authorizing alternative accreditation for private school participation in the high school activities association, drew only one Republican nay.
  • SB 176, which made human trafficking a crime in South Dakota, passed unanimously in the Senate and drew just three nays, all GOP, in the House.
  • HB 1248, an extension of a half-percent tourism tax, drew nays from only a tiny minority of Republican legislators.
  • SB 104, a proposal to mandate school bullying policies, was only voted on once, by seven members of the Senate Education committee, meaning that this bill tells us nothing about the voting record of 98 legislators.
  • SB 161, which would have extended protections from discrimination to soldiers and veterans, was killed by a solid Republican majority in the Senate, meaning this bill tells us nothing about the voting record of House Republicans.

Howie's pals chose a handful of bills that offer little if any help to voters seriously trying to distinguish conservatives from liberals on the GOP side of the aisle. As with his fake poll, Howie has no good data to back up his claims.

Update 20:40 CST: When Rev. Rep. Steve Hickey scores only 50% on a conservative Christian Republican purity test, you know something's wrong. The good Hickey smells folderol-fueled fundraising.


  1. Jana 2011.12.28

    Trying to find a name for their new party. Maybe the Limbaugh Glen Beck Tea Party, or LGBT party. Wait...what?

  2. grudznick 2011.12.28

    Rev. Hickey is a good fellow, and it's outlandish for my old friend Mr. Howie to brand him only 50% Republican. seems insane. Where is my sane friend of the past?

  3. Bill Fleming 2011.12.29

    Jana. Perfect. Could be therapeudic.

  4. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    Perhaps Representative Steve Hickey ought to look at who are joining him in their attack on those who want to expose voting records...Bill, Jana, and Cory. Not exactly your wear-it-on-their-sleeve Christians or Republican ideologues.

  5. Bill Fleming 2011.12.29

    Sibby, that's what is called a bipartisan consensus. Who would have guessed you, Howie, and Ellis would become South Dakota's great political uniters?

  6. Steve Hickey 2011.12.29

    Cory is also siding with you and Stace on the LRC concerns, Sib. And it's not an attack if I respond defensively to those who launch an offensive campaign to bear false witness.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.12.29

    Steve, the inherent weakness of Howie's report card has nothing to do with who reports it. This report card chooses several bills that passed with unanimous or near-unanimous Republican support. It does nothing to clearly distinguish conservatives, moderates, or "liiberals" within the GOP. And I think any observer, right, middle, or left, would discount a purportedly "conservative Christian" report card that ranks Pastor Steve Hickey relatively low.

  8. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "I think any observer, right, middle, or left, would discount a purportedly “conservative Christian” report card that ranks Pastor Steve Hickey relatively low."

    Or perhaps Pastor/Representative Steve Hickey's voting record does not match his reputation. He complains about including his vote on the mid-wife issue, but Jesus Christ was not born in a hospital.

  9. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "Cory is also siding with you and Stace on the LRC concerns, Sib."

    No he is not.

    And I would be careful with the false witness charge. Show us where the your votes was not what was presented on the scorecards.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.12.29

    Am so, Steve, in so far as I support investigating alleged abuse of power and, if evidence is produced, seeking appropriate remedies.

    Rep. Hickey is not denying his voting record. I suspect he has offered good explanations in past public statements for every one of his votes. On those few bills where the scorecard shows differences among GOP legislators (and again, most of the bills chosen do a poor job of distinguishing voting records), the report card just as logically shows that the GOP has room for diverse opinions. A report card that focuses on a few fringe issues and ignores much broader bread-and-butter issues is (as Mr. Jones points out) provides cause for embarrassment but little utility.

  11. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    And I will repeat what I told Pastor Hickey in a not so private setting. His 60% was not bad relative speaking. Has anybody charged that you have to 100% to be a Republican? No!

  12. Bill Fleming 2011.12.29

    Apparantly you can be as low as 28% and still be a Republican. In fact, as per the chatrs, virtually all the Democrats in the legislature are more Republican than some of the Republicans are. That's what's so goofy about it. They are obviously using the wrong metrics.

    Like I said, if I had hired a polling company who gave me results like that, I would fire them immediately and start over.

    And I would never, ever have shown the data to anyone, let alone tried to defend it and use it to raise money.

    It's pure amateurish hackery.

  13. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "Hunting coyotes from snowmobiles"

    Mr. Jones comes off as some property rights guru, but he considers protecting your property from predators by exercising you Second Amendment rights a "fringe issue"?

    And the scorecard that Pastor Hickey scored the highest included the specific platform that supported the ratings. I would suggest he stop listening so much to the GOP leadership during caucus next year, and stop listening so much to the Executive branch lobbyists.

    Cory, your degrading of those who are pushing the LRC issue is not supportive.

  14. Bill Fleming 2011.12.29

    That's right, Troy. You should be able to hunt coyotes with a bazooka and hand grenades if you want to, dad gummit.

  15. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "In fact, as per the chatrs, virtually all the Democrats in the legislature are more Republican than some of the Republicans are."

    Bill, how many times do I have to explain that populist Demcorats are more Republican than RINOs? Why do you continue to ignore the truth. Not all Democrats are far-left Marxists who like government except when it needs to protect the victims in abortion mills.

  16. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "You should be able to hunt coyotes with a bazooka and hand grenades if you want to, dad gummit."

    Now look who is bearing false witness.

  17. Bill Fleming 2011.12.29

    (...just trying to channel my inner Sibby over here. I'm starting to get the hang of it, don't you think, Cory?)

  18. Bill Fleming 2011.12.29

    Sibby, have you seen my tinfoil hunting cap, man?

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.12.29

    But then what is this report card measuring? Hickey scores a 50%. What does that tell voters about his conservative Christian credentials?

    (And Steve, the fact that Gordon is pushing the LRC issue does not give give him carte blanche to issue ill-conceived and nearly useless "report cards" on legislators. I will continue to offer praise and scorn where each is appropriate.)

  20. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "What does that tell voters about his conservative Christian credentials?"

    As I said:

    "I would suggest he stop listening so much to the GOP leadership during caucus next year, and stop listening so much to the Executive branch lobbyists."

  21. Steve Hickey 2011.12.29

    Sibby, sorry if it hurts to hear me talk about bearing false witness. I'm calling it what it is. Do you have a better word to talk about when someone spreads a false report about someone else? That's what those scorecards do, plain and simple. I've got some other words too - malice in their hearts, I'm tired of that too.

    And since you mentioned my reputation I'll say I stepped into Pierre against strong stereotypes about who I am. Christians have lousy reputations. Shouldn't be. Whatever happened to 1 Timothy 3:7 about having a good reputation with outsiders? Are you winsome? If you aren't, you should be. My commentary on the Sermon on the Mount will be out soon. Get a copy and read what I say about being salt and light. Especially light, it's not about shining a bright spotlight in people's eyes to show them how bad they are, that instinctively causes them to turn away. It's about illuminating a way and people start walking in that direction. As in my post I'm using Christianese to communicate here because it is Christians who are out of line.

    Your comment relating Jesus to the midwifery issue is eisegesis. I've said the same about those who try to tie his childhood sojourn into Egypt with their position on the immigration issue. Hopefully you were just joking with the comment.

  22. troy jones 2011.12.29

    I'm for hunting coyotes from snowmobiles. In fact, I'm for most of the bills I list. I have two basic contentions:

    1) They are not defining Republican principles. Gordie Howie's support of increasing the sales tax offendes my GOP sensibilities alot more than all of the bills listed by this group combined.

    2) I don't agree with the interpretation of the GOP platform. For instance, Tornow's bill on Grandparents rights could be rationally justified either way.

    By the way Steve, you are correct nobody is saying 100% but Bob Ellis seems to be asserting 80%. I'm sorry but inferring Hickey, Hunt and Wick aren't good Republicans not only strains credibility but is goofy.

  23. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "Especially light, it’s not about shining a bright spotlight in people’s eyes to show them how bad they are, that instinctively causes them to turn away."

    So how does accusing those who are shining the light on your voting record "false witnesses" not showing us how bad they are?

  24. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "Gordie Howie’s support of increasing the sales tax offendes my GOP sensibilities"

    Troy, he was using that to reduce proeprtty taxes 35%. Now how does that sound to a pro-property rights advocate?

    "Tornow’s bill on Grandparents rights"

    That would have forced grandparents to show welfare mothers that they are unfit to be parents in order to visit their grandchildren. There was some kind of hidden political agenda going on behind the scenes here, but I don't have enough evidence to file a complaint.

  25. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "Your comment relating Jesus to the midwifery issue is eisegesis."

    Then so be Biblical doctrine that says woman have to have children in hospitals. Personally, I don't think the Bible provides a position on where woman have to go to bear their children. Not sure why the government has to.

  26. Stace Nelson 2011.12.29

    What folks REALLY want is a complete cumalative voting record of the entire legislature that is accessible online by everyone. One stop shopping if you will.

    I have a bill that will require such open government as well as another bill that will require individual legislator cumalative voting records on their legislative website profile so voters can have easy access to every recorded vote a legislator makes.

    Such openess will provide easy & total immediate access to each legislator's voting records.

    Now if only I could get the research information from LRC that Rep. Turbiville ordered they not give me on this matter...

  27. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    Then show me Biblical doctrine...sorry for not slowing down and proofing my typing.

  28. Steve Hickey 2011.12.29

    Sibby, are you winsome? Don't answer defensively. Sleep on it. Have you won anyone over to your way of thinking lately? If you can't win friends, how will you ever win over enemies? This is my point in this whole deal. It's not just you Sibby.

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.12.29

    Steve, you keep ignoring the fact that the methodology on this report card stinks. You can assert nothing substantive or distinguishing about the Republicans when the bills chosen (a) don't show lots of difference between Republicans, (b) don't include votes from both full houses, (c) don't compare their votes with Democrats, and (d) don't address the full range of serious issues before the Legislature. Howie's report card is a deceptive effort to dress up his personal views as "research" and raise money for as-yet unclear purposes.

  30. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    On the Mid-wifery issue the Republican platform (3.2) says:

    "We strongly support the fundamental right of a patient to choose their own physician and respect the importance of treatments focused on the patient’s well-being."

    So Pastor Hickey, have I been winsome enough to help you understand why a Republican voting scorecard would say the proper GOP vote would be a "Yey"?

  31. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.12.29

    On percentages: Gordon Howie says in today's Rapid City Journal, "I would just suggest that it's not excusable for Republicans to get a 50 percent on faith, family and fiscal issues." Howie then turns to 50% Rep. Hickey's comment section and tries to say he's not taking any shots at Hickey. I invite anyone to try squaring those two statements.

  32. troy jones 2011.12.29

    Steve, the operative word is physician in the platform.

    Physician: a person who is legally qualified to practice medicine; doctor of medicine.

    Although I support the midwife bills (based on what I know), a midwife is not a physician. The platform is silent on this matter.

  33. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    Sibby, are you winsome?

    Not nearly as much as I would like. I agree with the premise that we need to mindful of grace. Sorry you did not see that when I complimented your 60% score.

    I was winsome enough to turn about a dozen votes against Tornow's attack on grandparent's rights. Unfortunately, not yours, otherwise you would have improved to 65%. (grin)

  34. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    Troy, I think the bill was to recognize the specialized qualifications of a mid-wife. You don't have to learn brain surgery to deliver a baby.

  35. troy jones 2011.12.29

    Steve, words matter, especially in the platform. Physician has a clear definition. It is silent regarding midwives and any specialized qualifications they have thus a matter for which there is no clear platform position.

  36. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    Cory, Gordon said Pastor Hickey recieved 100% on the family issues, but a zero on the fiscal. Thanks for linking to his explanation. And I want to say that I agree with Gordon's appreciation for Pastor Hickey's service to South Dakota. The hope is that the SDGOP Establishment's influcence is reduced so that conservatives can be free to vote the way their principles lead them.

  37. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    Troy, "treatments focused on the patient’s well-being" does not have to include physcians. There are two parts to the sentence.

  38. troy jones 2011.12.29

    It says "and" not "or"

    A strict interpretation of the plank puts Hickey et. al. inside the plank and us outside.

  39. Jana 2011.12.29

    Stace, another good thing to add would be who their campaign donors are and to spell out the individuals behind the PAC money they receive and if any of them have contracts with the state of SD.

    Actually I would like to see a pro and con explanation of each bill so that the poorly written or deliberately deceiving bills would be called out.

    And don't be so coy with the bills you are going to present. Fill us, you know...the taxpayers, in on how you are going to use the time of our elected body.

    Oh yeah, and if you are crafting your bills using outside resources, please identify the key contributors and their affiliations.

  40. Bill Fleming 2011.12.29

    Jana, yes, that would be excellent.

  41. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "A strict interpretation of the plank puts Hickey et. al. inside the plank and us outside."

    Well the people who put the scorecard together beiieved that the proper interpretation would be that the GOP was against government sanctioned health care. Amazing how the GOP Establishment can use such "carefully selected words".

    So Troy, you are saying the the GOP really stands for the government forcing citizens to use regulated monopoly corporations. The campaign rhetric that the Obama Demcorats are evil communist that need to be defeated by Republicans who believe in less government is just a lie to get votes?

    Now I am becoming more convinced that the people in this country have no real choice. Both parties are for some form of socialistic tyranny. The evil communist Democrats versus the conservative limited government Republcians is just deception. The game plays out with a Hegelian dialectic called compromise which always means a more intrusive government, regardless of which party is in power.

  42. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    Those whos put the Platform Scorecard togther also supported their postion on the mid-wife issue with plank 3.1:

    "The South Dakota Republican Party affirms its commitment to the physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being and quality of life for South Dakotans of all races, creeds, and cultures."

    So if your Christian conserative culture includes having your baby at home under the supervision of a licensed mid-wife, Troy's interpretation of 3.2 nullifies, and you are forced into a hospital which increases the risk of your and your baby being infected with MSRA. Troy's interpretation of 3.2 also nullifies this portion of the SDGOP platform.:

    "The South Dakota Republican Party recognizes the free enterprise system and the work ethic of our people as the foundation of our economic success and security."

    Government regulated monopolistic corporate socialialism is not conducive to a "free enterprise system". It would be less possible for a monopolistic corporate hospital to charge its high price to delivery babies if the lower cost mid-wife option was available.

  43. Bill Fleming 2011.12.29

    For all the sanctity Sibby gives a fertilized ovum in the womb, and its life there as a fetus, he certainly seems to have a cavalier attitude about the circumstances under which they are given birth. It's almost shocking to me to hear that at this stage he thinks it all comes down to free enterprise, a rant against health care in hospitals, and an assertion that Jesus was born in a barn. Blows my mind.

  44. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    Bill, odd that you would be supportive of the GOP's monopolistic corporate socialism. Or is it? There are Marxist who believe that unions arguing with monopolies is better for the working class than competing in a free market.

  45. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.12.29

    Say, why doesn't the party itself ever issue a report card to determine who's been naughty or nice? Why do all of these report cards all come from shadowy fringe groups with no names other than Howie's?

  46. troy jones 2011.12.29


    You can't say "it would appear" (which indicates not wholly clear) and then say "obvious intent." That is called a logic leap.

    More importantly, look at context. In state law, physicians and midwives are separate, just as nurses etc. Or look at your insurance policy.

    Look, I support the midwife bill. I just don't see it "obvious" in the context of the platform.

  47. Steve Sibson 2011.12.29

    "I just don’t see it “obvious” in the context of the platform."

    Troy, only if your worldview is corporate socialism.

  48. Stace Nelson 2011.12.29

    Regardless of our past heated disagreement on issues, you are clearly no slouch in the gray matter field. As you know, the folks that prepared that platform were mom & pops South Dakotans who were not looking at statute.

    Some of the very same folks that helped create those plank principles are the ones that came up with the extended report card that the midwife bill was on. We can argue semantics as our house is burning or we can agree that we need to be more attentive to the concerns of our most active Republicans.

    The real problem here is not all these report cards or the "grades." The problem is that we have elected Republicans often arrogantly dismissing the concerns of some of the most active members of our state Republican Party.

    With all due respect, this is where you and others have failed our party and these elected Republicans. The advice should have been, if you disagree with the way you were graded, explain your votes on the issues they disagreed with you on. Making legislators think that the report cards that were put out were mine, was a huge disservice to them.

  49. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.12.29

    Stace, the problem in your third paragraph is that there is no way to link the results of the Howie report card with the claim you make. Most of the bills on this report card fail to distinguish most Republicans from each other.

  50. LK 2011.12.29

    As a political gdi, I really have no dog in this report card fight. I guess I find it entertaining, but the entertainment value is tempered by some disconcerting realities.

    At the national level Republicans favor allowing warrantless wiretaps, imprisonment of American citizens without due process, and the conduct of two wars without a declaration of war. The fact that a Democrat has continued and expanded these policies does not obviate the fact that Republicans on the national level support them.

    At the state level, I'm lead to believe that freedom is defined by the ability to use a snowmobile to kill a coyote or the fact that I may not have to wear a helmet while I ride a motorcycle.

    In the face of the national level assault on political freedom, I find the state "protections" laughable. I'm a heck of a lot more afraid of a President who can imprison citizens without due process than I am of a law that says I have to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.

  51. Jana 2011.12.29

    Wonder what bills the purity wing of the Republican party have planned to test the bona fides of his fellow legislators.

    We'll probably see bills that will prove the true purity of the party say like an Arizona, Georgia, Alabama style immigration bill. How about a personhood bill to really get us pure on the abortion front? Maybe we can even do something to restrict voters from the polls. I am also guessing that there will be some proposed drug testing of people receiving unemployment or government assistance. Better not leave out the something to protect people from the gay marriage...and last, but not least, we will probably probably see a gun bill of some sort. Oops, almost left out something to do with sharia law.

    I think that should cover it.

  52. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.12.30

    LK and Jana both have a pretty good grasp of how our Legislature intends to keep distracting us from the real problems in our state. And notice that not one of those GOP proposals does much to make South Dakota more economically or culturally attractive to our high school and college graduates.

  53. Steve Sibson 2011.12.30

    Jana, you forgot overturning RoundsCare, SB 38 from last session.

    "culturally attractive to our high school and college graduates"

    That culture would be learning the religion of Jihad while waiting in line at an abortion mill, thinking if only I loved another women, while the illegal father suppliments his drug business with food stamps, housing assistance, and Medicaid.

  54. Stace Nelson 2011.12.30

    Mr. "H,"
    You are active with your blog, these folks identified bills that they were not happy with the way their legislators were voting on and "published" their reports on their performance. Both educate voters and get them looking at the issues. While I do not agree with the whole of your blog, or their report cards, I do agree with getting the voter more involved & educated on what is happening in our state & country.

    I am not sure if we are looking at the same third paragraph? Please explain.

Comments are closed.